It’s probable that Steve Jobs and his team never anticipated the impact that combining a phone, a music player, an email server, and a Rolodex into one tiny handheld device would have on global commerce and consumers.
The arrival of the smartphone was a true paradigm-shifting moment in global history, and would also shake the global economy. Jobs, Apple and those who followed have helped usher in this fourth industrial revolution the global economy is currently living through.
This has seen the scales tipped and industries disrupted as the power, reach, and industry dominance of companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, and Airbnb challenged established industries and business models.
The long-established players have been left reeling. Retail, the taxi industry, and hotels have been hit particularly hard. Microsoft, however, has successfully hit back, changing its business model and operations, and diversifying its revenue stream.
In other industries, business leaders are still reacting – some well, some not so.
As we head toward 2020, almost no area of modern commerce has been untouched by the changes technology has wrought. And almost no area of modern business has been untouched by the empowerment of customers – both consumers and B2B – and the rebalancing of expectations around price, convenience and delivery.
Faced with a disruption to their business models, along with increased uncertainty around the future shape of the economy and their customers’ desires, business leaders understand the need for digitisation.
This means different things to different people, companies, and industries. The important thing is that all businesses and their leaders must recognise the world has already gone digital; it’s not a channel, but a paradigm shift, a necessity of business.
The seven rules for going digital
- Leaders need to change their approach. No longer is command and control the best way to manage a business. By necessity, a leader needs to become more collaborative, a co-creator with colleagues and customers.
- Focus on the customer. This is the Jeff Bezos way. Businesses and their leaders need to have this as a primary objective of their digital strategy. Leaders need to adapt as their customer adapts. They must evolve as their customers’ needs, wants, and expectations change. Customers – external and internal – must be the primary focus.
- Culture is critical. Technology empowers digitisation, driving the ability to get closer to the customer and deliver what they want. But the rules of business have not been abandoned, culture is still a key to success. Without the right culture, digital transformation efforts will fail.
- Get comfortable with failure. One important cultural change is that people across the company – from the board and executive level right on down to the shop floor – must allow themselves to experiment and fail. That will need a change in mindset.
- Silos are the enemy. In a digital world, the breaking down of silos is paramount to any transformation strategy. Experimentation, failure, and success need cross-functional collaboration to deliver. Silos inhibit this.
- Technology is a means to an end. It is the enabler of the changes needed to delivery on customer and business leader expectations. It is not the end in itself.
- Digitisation is not a destination, but a manner of travelling. The world is speeding up, customer expectations continue to evolve, and competition is intensifying. Consider digitisation a journey on which you’ll probably never feel like you’ve arrived.
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